Kevin Anderson

KAPUSKASING – The Town of Kapuskasing received some very welcomed news on Dec. 20, in the form of a letter from Minister of Children, Community and Social Services Lisa MacLeod stating the moratorium on changes to the Cochrane District Social Services Administration Board (CDSSAB) cost aportionment formula would be extended through December of 2019.

This means that concern over having to switch to a per-capita based formula, which would have cost Kapuskasing an extra $1.2 million with Hearst and Cochrane also facing significant hikes.

“It allows us to breathe for another year, but it doesn’t allow us to sit down and do nothing,” said Kapuskasing Mayor David Plourde. “I think we have to make sure that the eventual new funding formula reflects the needs of our community.

“We just can’t afford a $1.2 million increase. That would amount to an extra 12 per cent tax increase just to pay for the additional costs, not to mention what we’re already paying. It’s not affordable. That’s why we’ve spoken about this file as the most urgent one for council to address. We have to work on this diligently and get it settled because this cost could affect a great many things by its ripple effect.”

Plourde said one complicating factor in the process, will be the election of new councils throughout the CDSSAB cachement area.

“There are very few constants remaining with regards to councillors,” he commented. “You’ve got a couple in Hearst, a couple here in Kap and only a few others smattered across the CDSSAB area. It is imperative that all councillors and mayors be brought up to speed on this file accurately and efficiently.”

Ultimately, Plourde said, the decision as to whether or not the formula can or will be changed lies with the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services.

“At this point we’re not even sure whether the Ministry would accept a proposal on behalf of the municipalities involved if we came up with one, or if they’re going to go with a cookie cutter approach for costing apportionment for all DSSABs across the province or if they’re going to change the formula at all,” explained Plourde. “This is an issue that is new to the newly elected provincial government too. Regardless of which approach the Ministry decides to go with, we have to make sure that we are front and centre in the process to make sure it doesn’t negatively affect us.”

Let the CAT out of the bag

Plourde said one of the biggest hurdles in the CDSSAB issue revolves around costly non-urgent patient transfers.

He suggested that a big step in clearing that obstacle, would be for the Ministry of Health to approve the purchase and operation of a CAT scan machine for Kapuskasing.

“When you look at non-urgent patient transfers, 80 per cent of them are for CAT scans,” he said. “If you can reduce your costs by 80 per cent in that respect – and that’s not even taking into account travel grants given out to non-urgent patients, who choose to drive to their scan themselves – you’re looking at a lot of money. To me it’s a no-brainer and I don’t know why it’s taking so long to get approval.”